Kellogg World Alumni Magazine, Summer 2001Kellogg School of Management
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Pres. Bienen, Oprah, Dean Jacobs and Dean Jain
© Nathan Mandell
Northwestern University President Henry Bienen (left) joined by Oprah Winfrey and Kellogg Dean Emeritus Donald Jacobs and Dean Dipak Jain at Kellogg's June commencement ceremony

Students treated to media icon at Graduation '01
Oprah tells grads to 'serve others' as Don Jacobs says goodbye

by Matt Golosinski

Long after midnight, the sound of rattling metal could be heard outside McGaw Hall as workers arranged barricades and made other preparations for the coming day's graduation convocation of the Kellogg school. In addition to the usual fanfare surrounding Kellogg's full-time commencement activities, this year invited a swarm of special media attention because of Oprah Winfrey, who delivered the June 16 convocation address. Though Winfrey admitted her schedule made participation in such engagements a challenge, she said she felt "deeply honored" to appear at the ceremony. "I couldn't say 'no' to my own class," said Winfrey, a recent adjunct professor at Kellogg. "And nobody says 'no' to Dean Jacobs," she added while cameras flashed around her.

McGaw Hall was packed to the rafters with family and friends of the some 1,000 Kellogg graduates. Throughout the afternoon, expectations and excitement rose inside the hall, as guests awaited not only Winfrey but Dean Donald Jacobs who, after 26 years, was appearing in his last commencement as head of the Kellogg school.

Jacobs departed from his usual extemporaneous practice and instead penned a written speech this year. Explaining his decision, Jacobs said "This is a very nostalgic day for me and I might have been too emotional to deliver a speech that wasn't written down."

EMP grad and family  
© Steve Serio
Above and below right: some of this year's graduating class

As he has traditionally done, Jacobs revisited some of the more significant developments at Kellogg over the past year. He began by praising incoming dean Dipak Jain whom Jacobs called "absolutely qualified and ready" to lead the school. Jacobs then highlighted the recently completed construction of a new building that expands Kellogg's Evanston campus, calling the facilities "second to none." He went on to note the importance of Kellogg's technology curriculum as well as the school's "very dramatic international commitment." To illustrate the latter point, Jacobs explained that nearly one-third of the school's newest class comes from outside the United States.

Jacobs also underscored the importance of alumni serving as "ambassadors to spread the Kellogg brand," and then closed his address with a familiar recommen-dation. "Do well, be well, have fun, make us proud and stay in touch," he told the graduates before introducing Winfrey, the 47-year-old chairman of Harpo Entertainment Group and host of the Emmy-award-winning Oprah Winfrey Show.

Winfrey wove folktales, quotations and personal anecdotes into an inspirational speech that emphasized nurturing one's personal vision and vocation. "Each of us enters the world with a calling," said Winfrey. "It may begin as a whisper, but eventually the calling makes its claim and never goes away."

Quoting personal influences that included Emerson, Thoreau, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Winfrey told graduates that it was "far more important to be significant than successful." She also noted that service to others was the key to gaining "significance," a condition she differentiated from contemporary notions of financial success. "Nothing wrong with a big paycheck...but I've known many people who have grown bored by their material possessions and hungered for something more," said Winfrey, whose erudite address was punctuated with moments of her well-known colloquial style.

  EMP Grad
© Steve Serio

Winfrey recalled becoming determined to use her media influence to serve "a higher calling" by helping others overcome adversity. "Develop a new vision of service to others, to your family, community and world," insisted Winfrey. "Lift yourself out of the mundane to magnificent heights. If you honor your calling, your life will be blessed," she concluded.

After Winfrey spoke, Jacobs presented her with a gift from her Kellogg students: a framed photograph of the Evanston campus. Each student had signed the picture.

Before the graduates were awarded their degrees -- the first time in the history of the Kellogg school that the MBA instead of the MM degree had been conferred -- Professor Daniel Diermeier was presented with the Professor of the Year Award. Diermeier, the IBM Professor in Regulation and Competitive Practices, thanked the students for selecting him as their choice. He also thanked Jacobs for "creating what seems impossible: an environment where both superb research and teaching excellence are cultivated."

Later in the day, Kellogg's Executive Master's Program, classes EMP-47 and EMP-48, held commencement at Cahn Auditorium. The convocation speaker was Robert Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs, Inc. EMP-47 selected Sunil Chopra and Steve Rogers as their top professors, while EMP-48 selected David Messick and Brian Sternthal as theirs. During the graduation, students saluted Jacobs through poetry, songs and gifts. "It was a glorious celebration," said Erica Kantor, director of EMP.

©2001 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University